Part 2—Murky, inane, unhelpful: Last week, before the photos emerged, no one knew who had committed the terrible Boston bombings.
Murky, unfocused, unhelpful work soon appeared from the leaders of both major tribes. Red and blue were quickly fighting about concepts like black, white and Muslim.
Let’s start with some murky, unfocused work which emerged at a red tribal site.
Newsbusters is one of the many sites maintained by the Media Research Center, a long-standing conservative press critique site. Over the years, the MRC has produced a ton of horrible work, though some of its work isn’t awful.
Last Friday, a minor blogger at Newsbusters responded to a more prominent figure at Salon. Earlier in the week, Salon’s David Sirota had written a column whose headline said this:
“Let’s hope the Boston Marathon bomber is a white American.”
It’s hard to find a paragraph in Sirota’s piece that fully makes sense. That said, his column was built around a premise which was perfectly sensible: Different repercussions might flow depending on who had committed this bombing.
According to Sirota, some racial, ethnic or religious groups are “collectively denigrated or targeted for the unlawful actions of individuals.” Other groups are not subjected to collective action when some member of the group commits a heinous crime.
For that reason, Sirota said he hoped the bomber would turn out to be “a white American.” In that case, the bomber would be pursued as an individual, with no consequences for innocent members of his group.
“It will probably be much different if the bomber ends up being a Muslim and/or a foreigner from the developing world,” Sirota gloomily predicted.
Sirota expressed his sensible notion quite poorly, as we will see tomorrow. But our modern red and blue tribes simply love to fight. Warring tribes have always felt this way, in the Caucasus and elsewhere.
Warring tribes love to fight! In that spirit, Portnoy offered a fuzzy, unintelligent response to Sirota in this, his unfortunate Newsbusters blog post.
By now, the Tsarnaev brother had been identified as the bombers. (One was already dead.) In his unfortunate tribal post, Portnoy gloated about the fact that Sirota’s wish hadn’t been granted.
Was Portnoy right in that perception? Had Sirota’s wish been denied? We’d pretty much have to say yes. The Tsarnaev brothers pretty much aren’t “white Americans” in the sense Sirota seemed to have meant, even though both brothers are “white” and even though the younger brother is an American citizen.
As noted, Sirota had worried about what might or would happen “if the bomber ends up being a Muslim and/or a foreigner from the developing world.” But uh-oh! As it turned out, the two bombers were Muslim. Beyond that, they were both foreign-born. They and their family had come to the United States from an unfortunate, war-torn region which might even be said to belong to the developing world.
In truth, the Tsarnaevs weren’t “white Americans” in the sense Sirota had seemed to have in mind. Indeed, ever since their identity surfaced, concerns have been voiced that the Tsarnaevs’ conduct might produce repercussions for Chechen-Americans or even for Muslims in general.
This is a perfectly valid concern, although, within our own blue tribe, our tribal leaders love to assume that such bad conduct will happen.
In his column from inside blue nation, Sirota dealt with a valid concern, although he expressed this concern rather poorly. Now, Portnoy played the red tribal fool in his gloating response.
Because his writing is jumbled and murky, it’s hard to tell just what Portnoy thought about several key points. But he gloated at the idea that Sirota’s wish had been denied. He also stated some bogus information.
Most strikingly, he weirdly seemed to suggest that if you’re Muslim, you can’t be white. Below, you see how dumb it can get within our modern red tribe:
PORTNOY (4/19/13): Fox News fills in some of the missing “character” details of the brothers Tsarnaev. The two came to the U.S. from Chechnya about a decade ago. They are believed to have undergone military training overseas. Tamerlan, the brother killed in the shootout, told a photographer in 2009, “I don’t have a single American friend, I don’t understand them.”Portnoy didn’t seem to understand what Uygur (correct name) had written. He never bothered explaining why Sirota's piece was “outrageous.”
Oh, and they have been confirmed to be Muslim.
These details are at least a setback for David Sirota, a blogger at Salon.com, who headlined a post earlier this week “Let’s hope the Boston Marathon bomber is a white American.” After taking much-deserved flak for his outrageous post, Sirota doubled down, crafting a second column titled that might have been titled “I’m Dreaming of a Whiter American.” Instead he opted for the more banal “I still hope the bomber is a white Americam.” After another round of well-aimed barbs, you’d think Sirota had had enough. And you’d think wrong.
Early this morning, around the time the police were shooting it out with the bombers, Sirota engaged in a shootout of his own on Twitter, attacking what he called the “white media” and defending his previous positions against the forces of “bigotry.”
So have Sirota and pals lost the battle? Not necessarily. Some on the left have already hit upon a new self-serving narrative: that the attackers were Muslim but that they were also white (shades of George Zimmerman?). Cenk Ungyur [sic], of Current TV fame, who subscribes to this view, seems to wag an affectionate finger at Sirota in a tweet of his own...
Meanwhile, were the Tsarnaev brothers “believed to have undergone military training overseas?” Someone may have believed that claim. But the younger brother hadn’t even been out of the country in recent years. And there is still no evidence that the older brother received military training when he went to Russia in 2012.
Portnoy’s work was awful. That said, the second passage we have highlighted constitutes the crowning dumbness of his unfortunate post.
By all accounts, the Tsarnaev brothers were Muslim. By normal census classifications, they were also white. But Portnoy somehow seemed to think that a person can’t be both Muslim and white. The reference to Zimmerman suggested that he thinks a person can’t be both white and Hispanic, although we’re forced to guess.
In fairness, Portnoy is a minor figure at Newsbuster. But in that passage, he helped us see the ginormous dumbness that often emerges from red nation orgs in our modern tribal wars.
But how about the work of our own blue nation in this particular skirmish? At Salon, Joan Walsh seized upon Portnoy’s post—and her work was almost as murky and unhelpful as his work had been.
Meanwhile, how about Sirota’s column itself? Tomorrow, we’ll start with that.
Alas! The red and the blue were soon talking race in the aftermath of Boston. Much work from the right was unhelpful, inane.
Some of our blue leaders weren’t hugely better. Tribal war makes humans dumb.
Tomorrow: Nut-picking, plus tribal logic